by Todd Walker
Catching enough zzzz’s can be difficult. A hungry infant, tomorrow’s big presentation at work, blogging, paying bills, TV, a novel you can’t put down, catching up with visiting relatives, or little Johnny’s science project – good or bad – all serve as sleep saboteurs.
These all happen in ‘normal’ times and leave us feeling half-baked! I still remember being a sleepless zombie for a year after our first daughter was born. Will she ever sleep through the night!?!?
Now imagine the nightmarish effect a wide-scale disaster scenario will have on our physiological need for quality sleep. Being sleepless in Seattle or anywhere else for an extended period of time will only increase your chances of not making it out alive.
Not getting enough sleep makes us sloppy. We can cope with some sloppiness when times are good. Our modern medical systems are in place to cover our mistakes.
However, you need to be functioning on all cylinders in the crunch. No matter how much stuff, skills, and knowledge you’ve acquired, fatigue makes cowards of us all.
Have you thought about how you plan to get enough sleep WTSHTF?
Your natural circadian rhythm can be ignored, but not for long – and not without consequences. When all hell is breaking loose around you and your family, your body and mind need sleep to survive. Not the one-eye-wide-open variety. But the deep, dead-to-the-world type that restores the body, mind, and soul.
When the crunch arrives, sleep as we know it will change – suddenly.
The Sandman cometh
Off the top of my well-rested head, here’s the science on how insufficient sleep will sabotage your health and survival:
- Accelerates aging and may increase age-related pathologies like cancer. Have you ever heard this line before. I used to say it myself. “I can sleep when I’m dead.” Insufficient sleep will oblige and speed up your journey.
- Associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
- Heading over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving? Just realize that 1 in 10 of your fellow travelers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. Drowsy driving is responsible for 16.5 percent of deadly crashes.
- You want to consolidate and use all those new survival skills you’ve been learning, right? A group of researchers in Switzerland found that sufficient sleep was the key to good memory and increases our ability to perform new skills.
- Group cohesion is likely to come unglued if your tribe doesn’t have enough people to pull graveyard guard shifts for those who are sleeping. The stressors in survival situations take a toll on our bodies, minds, emotions, and overall health. Add sleep deprivation to the mix and the attitude of your group will likely take on a more negative tint.
- Poor sleep disrupts metabolic function. That’s right, sleepless nights are linked to obesity and diabetes. This study shows data supporting the role of sleep in the regulation of glucose homeostasis and the hormones involved in the regulation of appetite. For preppers wanting to lose weight and build lean muscle mass, get quality sleep before the reset.
- Reaction time slows. Instead of responding alertly to a threat, sleep deprived individuals are slower to react than those who are well rested. This could be costly when seconds count.
The main occupational hazard of survivalists is dying. When our sleep equilibrium is out of whack, nature finds a way to balance the equation. Our body stops functioning at peak capacity in an effort to restore and rebuild. That’s not something you can afford in the coming collapse. You need to be strong to be useful.
Sleepless nights will abound in an extended SHTF scenario. Food, water, shelter, security, and personal hygiene are top priorities in the preparedness community. If you’ve got these basics taken care of, congrats! However, you’ll be reeling in regret if you neglect sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene simply means getting proper amounts of quality sleep.
In case it hasn’t dawned on you yet, a scheduled sleep plan is one of the most important, yet most neglected, parts of long-term survival with the added bonus of chronic good health!
To turn your dream of quality pillow time into reality, here’s my Sherpa tips for creating a Survival Sleep Hygiene Plan.
Tips for a Survival Sleep Hygiene Plan
A.) Listen to your biological clock
It becomes more important to follow our natural sleep cycle as we age. Over the last four years my sleep patterns have changed. It may have something to do with following a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. I get sleepy and go to bed around 8 to 9 PM and get up between 4 to 5 AM – without an alarm clock. I stare in silence at my lunch table buddies when the conversation turns to who won American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. They know not to include me since I’m in dreamland at that hour. I’m sure I didn’t miss any significant stuff.
B.) Schedule your sleep
As much as possible, stick to a regular bedtime and wakeup schedule. If you have children, you already know the importance a sleep schedule.
If you can’t sleep with the thought of missing your favorite TV show, record it and watch it later. Better yet, unplug it during the work week. Your body will thank you the morning after! In a crisis, mindless entertainment won’t be on your immediate list of priorities anyway.
C.) Find your balance
The average person needs 7-9 hours of shut-eye each night. Too little or too much sleep adds oxidative stress.
D.) Light discipline
This one may be easy to come by if our fragile power grid goes bye-bye. Until the lights go out, sleep is best had in total darkness. Even the glow of LED lights on an alarm clock can interrupt sleep. Cover your alarm clock or just ditch it. Your rooster will let you know when it’s morning time.
Outdoor security lights can be blocked with blackout window shades – useful to keep light inside your house when the need arises.
E.) Avoid the blue glow after dark
Bright light is linked to a decrease in melatonin, the hormone that helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Filling your eyes with bright lights before bedtime will have you counting too many sheep.
A word of caution: Melatonin supplements are sold as a natural, safe sleep aid. It’s a hormone – not a vitamin – and can cause damage if miss used!
Blue light emitted from your computer and TV mimics sunlight. Consider installing Flux to make your screen match the light in your room.
For night-time TV viewing, try wearing a pair of orange tinted safety goggles to filter out the blue light. Since I don’t watch much TV, I haven’t tried this geeky trick.
F.) Get more natural blue light
Our primitive ancestors spent lots of time outdoors in the sunlight. Natural light can help regulate your circadian rhythm. Escape your artificially lit cubical and step into the sunlight on work breaks for a natural shot blue light and fresh air.
G.) Room temperature
Dirt Road Girl and I sleep best when it’s cold in the bedroom. We open a window for cold air flow in the winter. Of course, make sure you have security measures in place for open windows.
My best sleep happens at our off-grid cabin in cold weather. No lights and cold sheets. Snuggling under wool blankets is a valid heat source! In the spring/summer/fall, I like to take a deep dive into the spring-fed portion of the lake to cool down before jumping in bed.
H.) Physical exertion before bed
Regular exercise is great for optimal health. But working out just before hitting the sack without giving your body time to cool down can hamstring quality sleep. A few minutes of light stretching before bed should be okay.
I.) No big meals before bedtime
J.) Burn a candle
Lighting candles not only adds a romantic mood while eating Meals Ready to Eat in your survival lair, fire light doesn’t emit artificial blue light. Plus, you might get lucky with this added sleep aid.
K.) Read a book before bed
Nothing new here.
L.) De-gadget your bedroom
Get rid of TV’s, phones, electronic devices, and any other potential sleep saboteurs in the bedroom. That includes pets.
M.) Take a short nap
A 20 to 30 minute power nap has been shown to increase productivity. Maybe your boss will catch on.
N.) Does your city ever sleep?
Mr. Rawles of SurvivalBlog.com may be right about the American Redoubt.
Map of Sleep Insufficiency:
The map below depicts age-adjusted* percentage of adults who reported 30 days of insufficient rest or sleep† during the preceding 30 days. Data is from the 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States.‡
* Age adjusted to 2000 projected U.S. population.
† Determined by response to the question, “During the past 30 days, for about how many days have you felt you did not get enough rest or sleep?”
‡ Includes the 50 states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Sleep has been viewed as a passive event and a waste of time by some. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sleep is vital to your survival! Find a way to let melatonin do its night-time job of restoring and repairing your body tissue and cells.
Are you sick and tired of being exhausted? Get ahead of the herd by starting your Survival Sleep Hygiene Plan before the next crisis erupts.
Stop yawning and let us know your thoughts in the comments. Life is short – sleep hard!
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